Daily Egyptian

Rauner on Dems: We’re still talking, but they need to take action

By Matt Dietrich, Reboot Illinois

The good news: Gov. Bruce Rauner and his Democratic counterparts — House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton — have met recently to discuss the state budget impasse.

End of good news.

On Friday, at a press conference following Rauner’s appearance at the dedication of the Chez Family Foundation Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana, Rauner said he had an “ongoing dialogue” with Madigan, Cullerton and General Assembly rank-and-file about the budget.

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“I am meeting … very recently with the leaders. We’ve had ongoing dialogue. What I’ve learned … is talking about our meetings or talking about what’s discussed or who met with whom when ends up being counter-productive. So I apologize. I don’t talk about it much, I’m not going to say much about it now,” Rauner said. “Conversations have been ongoing. I’m encouraging them very strongly. And they’re encouraging between myself and the leaders, myself and the members of the General Assembly as well as members who are Republicans and Democrats who are meeting regularly in the Legislature talking about the issues, they’re trying to move this forward.”

Cullerton’s spokeswoman, Rikeesha Phelon, said Rauner and Cullerton met last week. Madigan’s spokesman, Steve Brown, said Madigan and Rauner spoke on Sept. 21.

Rauner needn’t have worried about divulging sensitive information on the nature of the talks. His remarks earlier made clear that both sides remain exactly where they’ve been for the last three months.

“They need to either raise taxes — I won’t support their raising taxes but they have a super-majority to do it without me. They should go do that or, if they don’t want to do that, I will work them to raise taxes, we’ll get a balanced budget but I want to see us have reforms so we don’t chase our tails down, chase businesses out of the state, hurt homeowners and continue the decline of competitiveness that we’ve had in Illinois without reforms. We need reforms if we’re going to increase taxes. If we don’t get reforms then they should raise taxes themselves,” Rauner said.

The reforms Rauner wants — term limits, legislative redistricting reform and a long-term property tax freeze are “very politically popular,” Rauner said.

“Let’s do those things. Or if they don’t want to do them, OK, but then they should pass a balanced budget, not one that has a $5 billion hole,” Rauner said.

Rauner’s appearance on the U of I campus coincided with his receipt of a letter signed by the presidents of Illinois’ nine public universities pleading for an end to the budget standoff. The letter went to Rauner, Madigan, Cullerton and the Republican leaders of the General Assembly, Rep. Jim Durkin, R-Western Springfield, and Sen. Christine Radogno, R-Lemont.

“Requiring the public universities to operate without a budget appropriation is unsustainable. The uncertainty of not knowing when, or at what level, appropriations will be forthcoming is resulting in some students and faculty questioning whether Illinois is the best place to learn or to teach,” the letter read in part.

University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen was among the signatories and also was with Rauner on Friday at the dedication ceremony. Did he and Rauner discuss the letter and the precarious situation of the state universities?

“President Killeen and I have had a number of conversations about both the budget as well as other issues for the university. I’m a strong advocate for the University of Illinois. It’s one of the greatest institutions in the world,” Rauner said. “I am committed personally to supporting the university every way I can. I have made it clear to the president that I am very unhappy that we do not have a budget. It’s outrageous. There’s no reason for… this to be dragged on so long.”

Not mentioned was Rauner’s original budget proposal, in which direct appropriations to the state’s nine public universities were cut from $1.23 billion to $842.2 million. The Democrats’ budget, almost all of which Rauner vetoed, contained a 6.5 percent cut to higher education overall, compared to Rauner’s 31.5 percent.

Democrats have criticized Rauner for rejecting all of their budget except a single bill that funded P-12 education. They say Rauner could have avoided cuts to higher education, human services and facilities like the now-shuttered Illinois State Museum if he had used his amendatory veto power to change their budget bills as he saw fit.

Rauner consistently has said he won’t discuss the budget until reforms are in place.

“I am very unhappy that we don’t have the money for child care right now. I don’t want to cut child care. I don’t want to cut back on many of the services that are suffering right now,” Rauner said. “I certainly don’t want to close the state museum. I love it, living in Springfield, that’s a great institution.

“We’re having to do things that I don’t want to do but we don’t have a budget. And we are doing our darnedest to manage with a real cash crisis. And that’s why I’m calling on the Legislature: Take action. Stop waiting. They’re not even meeting right now. They are on business as usual. We’re in a crisis. Let’s decide this now.”

The House and Senate are scheduled to next be in session on Oct. 20.

(c)2015 Reboot Illinois

Visit Reboot Illinois at www.rebootillinois.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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